This year, one of my professional goals was to get better at teaching my students to write. At the beginning of the summer, I purchased the Lucy Calkins kindergarten writing set and it has taught me so very much. During the first quarter, we focused mainly on expository texts. (My students wrote about what they knew.) During this time we launched our writing workshop and at the end of the unit, each student published a book and read it for their parents during our “We Are Authors” celebration. (You can read about that process, here.)
This second quarter, we focused on writing narratives. During this semester we focused on a few key lessons:
1. What do I write about? Stories are everywhere.
2. I can write so I can read my writing.
3. I can write so that my friends can read my writing.
4. I can stretch out words and make sure there is a vowel in every single word.
5. How to use finger spaces.
This is not a “fancy” picture, but it shows you the scope and sequence that I used throughout the month:
Every day after lunch, we have our writer’s workshop time. This is right before our “quiet time.” (Quiet time is a ten minute rest time where my students lay down on their blankets and rest. During this time I play quiet, soft music and my students relax and reset their bodies so that they are ready for the rest of the day.) I mention this because my students stay focused on their writing for extended periods of time because there is not a “rush” to get to quiet time. If centers or free play was after writing workshop, my students would be more apt to say very quickly that they are “finished” so that they can move on to something else. Placing quiet time after writer’s workshop is very strategic on my part and truly helps my young writers focus and think about their writing. My students learned very quickly that, “When you are done, you have only just begun!” I very rarely get students who say, “I’m done!!”
Our first lesson in the unit was teaching my students that they can write true stories. During this lesson we talked about how stories are constantly happening all around us. (A student had lost a tooth that day!) We talked about how that friend could write about losing her tooth! Another student made gingerbread houses the night before with his family, we discussed how that would make a great story! Other students shared that they were playing a fun game on the playground that they wanted to write about. Before I let my students go off and write, I had them share their story with a friend orally. They all told their entire story to their friend and then eagerly got to work with the story in their mind. (I have found that doing this “talk time” before writing really helps them because they know what they wanted to write about!)
The next day, we talked about how writers write so that they can share their stories. I wrote a “story” on my anchor chart and tried to read it to my students. The story went something like this:
I struggled as I read it, showing my students that I really wanted to read it but I couldn’t figure out where the words started and stopped.
I then turned the page and wrote this, exaggerating using what I called a “finger space.”
I wnt to the prk and got hot chklit.
I showed them that I could read the sentence now that I knew where each word was! After our lesson on finger spaces, we quickly reviewed that stories happen all around us every day. I then had my students share what they were going to write that day with a friend and then set them off to work reminding them to use their finger spaces!
(For my students who had a hard time using their finger as a finger space, I had them use a crayon (we have triangle crayons that don’t roll)! They enjoyed picking their favorite color to make sure there was a “space” in between each word.)
We practiced these skills and writing slowly (listening for each sound they heard in words) for a few days. Each day my students felt more confident in their writing and I began to see more and more words on their pages.
Knowing that the next lesson was teaching my students how to break up their writing into multiple pages, I made sure I waited until most of my class was very proficient at writing true stories. This only took 3-4 days in my classroom. (Mind you we have been practicing writing for 4 months now!)
The next lesson was that stories have a beginning, middle, and an end. I told them a story about how the night before I decorated my house for Christmas. First, I got out my box of Christmas decorations. Next, I put my Christmas tree together. Then, I hung up the Christmas lights and ornaments. Finally, I made a cup of tea, and enjoyed looking at all my decorations.
I then took out four pieces of paper. I had my students retell my story and I showed them how I could write and draw one picture for each part of my story on each page.
After my students told their friends a story that they were going to write about, they practiced this skill.
This little girl was writing about how that week she had gotten strep throat. Notice how she wrote what happened first on her first page and is starting her second page.
This child was writing about going to her Nana’s house. On the first page she wrote about how they played outside. On this page she is writing that after they played, she ate a brownie.
The next day we reviewed how we can re-read our stories to know where we left off.
Using these lessons has truly revolutionized my kinders’ writing. I am so very proud of the progress they have made and your students can do it too!! This next semester we are going to going to continue narratives for one more week to get back into the swing of school, and then we will learn how to write “How To” pieces!
(As a tip- I try to take pictures of my students using the skills and lessons that we are learning and display them at the beginning of our writing workshop. I “brag on” a student who was working hard during our workshop the day before and then show my class their picture. They love seeing their friends do a great job and applaud their efforts. It also makes the student feel really great!)